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10-23-08, 07:29 AM
Lighter MRAPs slated for Afghanistan

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Thursday, October 23, 2008

ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. troops in Afghanistan could start seeing a newer, lighter version of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle next month, said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell.

The heavily armored vehicles have proven to withstand roadside bombs better than up-armored Humvees, partially due to their V-shaped bottom, which deflects blasts from underneath.

But Afghanistan has a vastly underdeveloped road network, meaning there are many places where big vehicles simply cannot go.

Navistar Defense LLC has received a $752 million contract to produce 822 MaxxPro Dash vehicles, a lighter and more maneuverable version of the MRAP vehicles they make now, a company news release from October said.

“A smaller turning radius and higher torque-to-weight ratio are among the improvements to its mobility,” the news release said. “MaxxPro Dash is also capable of accommodating additional up-armoring.”

All of the requested vehicles are expected to be produced by February 2009, the news release said.

“Hopefully, they will start being fielded as early as next month,” Morrell told reporters Wednesday.

Most of the vehicles will go to Afghanistan, where commanders need lighter and more maneuverable vehicles, Morrell said at a news conference.

The security situation worsened considerably this year after the Pakistani military halted operations against Islamic militants on their side of the border in the spring.

“We have seen an increase in IEDs [roadside bombs] in Afghanistan, but frankly before that increase, it was always the desire to get more of these very effective, life-saving vehicles into the hands of our troops over there,” he said.

U.S. Transportation Command plans to increase flights of MRAP vehicles to Afghanistan, a Defense official said.

The vehicles can be either be flown directly to Afghanistan, or they can he shipped to the U.S. Central Command theater of operations and then flown to landlocked Afghanistan, the official said.

So far, the Defense Department has fielded 1,122 MRAP vehicles to U.S. troops in Afghanistan and 9,341 such vehicles to Iraq, Morrell said.

The Army is also looking at whether some MRAP vehicles now in Kuwait could be sent to Afghanistan instead, he said.

Earlier this year, officials said commanders in Afghanistan had requested hundreds of RG-31 MRAP vehicles, which are slightly lighter than other MRAP vehicles, leading commanders to feel they are better suited for Afghanistan’s terrain.